Whatever It Takes

“Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.”

It is an awesome thing, after you’ve lived a while, to look back and see how the faithful love of the Lord has always been there. Constantly working to bring you to himself even when you weren’t aware of it, even when you were running with all your might in the opposite direction. To have lived some years and to have gained the perspective that only time can afford is a wonderful thing. What seemed like a jumbled tale of happenstance and random events crystalizes into a glorious story of the steadfast love of the God who will do whatever it takes. And for me, I think that Psalm 107 illustrates this point as well as any pericope in the Bible.

The author of the Psalm describes several groups of people (I’ll call them wanderers, prisoners, fools, and merchants.), and he describes their journeys and how God moved on their behalf. The wanderers were poor and destitute, without food and drink, close to death. But God heard their cry and rescued them. The prisoners had outright rebelled against the Lord. Their rebellion had bound them in misery and gloom. But God, in his mercy “broke them with hard labor; they fell, and no one was there to help them.” Then they cried to the Lord, and he delivered them and “broke down their prison gates of bronze; he cut apart their bars of iron.” Then there were the fools who also turned from God, and in their folly found nothing but dissatisfaction, deep discontentment that ate away at their very lives. But when they cried to the Lord he “sent out his word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death.” Finally, there were the merchants, sailing the seas, perhaps with minds only set on finance. But when the storms struck and their ships were tossed around, they feared for their lives and called on God who “calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.”

The story goes on to tell of rivers being changed to deserts, “and springs of water into dry, thirsty land. He [God] turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands, because of the wickedness of those who live there. But he also turns deserts into pools of water the dry land into springs of water.” This Psalm provides a beautiful description of God’s faithful love, it’s both poetic and eloquent. In it you see that God is the God who will do whatever it takes to deliver his people. In the midst of our wandering, when chains have bound our foolish, rebellious heart, when we’re giving all of our energy in pursuit of the riches of this world; this Psalm shows us that God will do whatever it takes to bring us to himself. But I can do you one better than Psalm 107.

The “whatever it takes” ultimately meant that God would become part of his creation. In the man Jesus, the unimaginable occurred: God joined divinity and humanity. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God displayed his great love and willingness to do whatever it takes to join us with himself. He personally becomes part of his creation. His appearance means that instead of being wanderers, we are adopted into his family. We are prisoners no more, for he himself has come to make us free. He has rescued us from the folly of seeking our own way by becoming wisdom for us. And instead of being mere merchants, relentlessly bargaining for the riches of this world; he has become our treasure and desire. This was his plan all along, and it gave him great joy to do so. What we see in pictures and poetry in Psalm 107 becomes flesh and blood in Jesus. We now know that the ultimate goal of God’s faithful love was not only to deliver us from the death, insanity and brokenness of sin, but to actually join us with himself. And in Jesus he says, “This is how far I’m willing to go! You in me and me in you- whatever it takes.”

Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

“…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heartLet the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.(Ephesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16)

I think it’s safe to say that music  plays a more integral role in “churches” today than perhaps in any other time in church history. (When I use the term “music” I am referring to “singing” as well.) Everybody knows if you want to have a successful “church” you’ve got to have good music and a cool band. Right? I remember  that I was once told (when I was a “worship pastor”) , “Now, we need to play these kinds of songs if we want to reach our target audience.” The thing is, when I read the above verses, especially within the context of the epistles in which they find themselves, I can’t help but think that we’ve missed something- a big SOMETHING! So, let’s wade through these verses (It’ll probably take a few articles to do it.), and see if we can get a better handle on the subject.

The first observation I’d like to make, though brief and fairly obvious, is that the music mentioned in these verses is a function/result of  spirit-filled lives  joined and growing together in Christ. The Church is the “target audience.” This type of singing is not an attempt to attract “outsiders” and enhance attendance, but is instead a vital part of true spiritual growth. And participation in this “activity” is not confined to “worship leaders” on a platform, but inclusive of all who come together as members of the body of Christ. There are to be no mere observers. Everyone is to be a sincere participant. Each individual in whom the word of Jesus dwells is to participate in a Life-giving chorus.

If you are a lover of Jesus, a member of his body, you were created for more than simply going to a building every week, hearing some really cool music and “getting your praise on.” No! Your song is invaluable to your brothers and sisters. Be continuously filled with the Spirit and sing!